Logan Pierce, editor-in-chief
As part of Banned Books Week, Dr. Joey Senat, OSU associate professor, spoke with students about censorship and the First Amendment.
“We are a marketplace of ideas,” Senat said, “In a marketplace, you’re going to have conflicting ideas.”
Senat presented images of the Confederate flag, and asked if anyone was offended by the image. No one responded.
Senat then presented pictures of protestors, holding signs comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. Some audience members chuckled, while others shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Next, Senat showed posters of President Obama depicted as the Joker from Batman. Senat said he noticed that those who laughed at the Bush signs were suddenly silenced, and those who were quite before, now laughed at the Obama posters. Everyone discussed the exploits of the Westboro Baptist Church, including their picketing of military funerals. Senat said that some considered Westboro’s signs and comments inflammatory hate speech.
“Is hate speech protected by the First Amendment?” Senat asked. Several audience members said it was not. “Sorry to break it to you,” Senat said, “but hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.”
When discussing banned books, Senat talked about “And Tango Makes Three;” which is the most challenged book of 2006-2008, and 2010.
The children’s picture book, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins, in New York’s Central Park Zoo, who are given an egg to hatch.
Criticism arose stating the book advocates same-gender families. “We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families.” Justin Richardson said, in a New York Times interview, “It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”
Speech should not be fought with censorship, Senat said, “Fight speech with speech. Let truth and falsehood grapple. Truth will win out in the marketplace of ideas.”
Senat compares free speech to the steam valve on a boiler. If people are unable to express themselves, the pressure builds, often exploding with a bloody revolution.
“The First Amendment doesn’t exist to protect popular speech,” Senat said, “It’s designed to protect the unpopular speech that makes your blood boil.”